Tuesday, June 10, 2014

RIGOR MORTIS Review - Javi's Take

Directed by: Juno Mak   
Written by: Lai-yin Leung, Phillip Yung
Starring: Anthony Chan, Siu-Ho Chin, Kara Hui, Richard Ng, Hoi-Pang Lo, Hee Chang Paw
Synopsis: When a actor fails to commit suicide, he discovers that his new apartment is full of otherworldly creatures.

RIGOR MORTIS deals with a disgraced actor, Yau, who moves into a common tenant building where his uncle works as a security guard. We see that he is severely depressed and tries to commit suicide in the opening minutes of the movie. As he's dying, he sees a horrific ghost coming up to him and is only saved by one of his neighbors who's a Taoist monk, who happens to know how to hunt vampires. After being rescued, Yau meets all of the inhabitants of this apartment building, which include ghosts, black magic wizards, and the aforementioned vampire hunter.

RIGOR MORTIS is a very fantastical movie that takes some very common horror tropes such as zombies and vampires and makes something more out of them by adding extra elements to their mythos. There was a lot of world building that, as far as the subtitled version goes, is great at hinting at the larger supernatural rules of the world, even ones that we don't see in the movie, such as a recently deceased tenant who passed away a month ago and hasn't "left" the building. There's also a great lore regarding vampire hunters their relationship to rice that was rather interesting. It makes one wonder whether this is a cultural lore or a new concept created by the filmmaker.

The visuals are a definite highlight of the movie as it contains not only a great set design for the apartment complex giving off serious grimy vibes, but the monsters that are displayed on screen are damn impressive. Of particular note are a pair of ghost twins, who while they share some similarities to the creepy girl from  THE RING. It's actually interesting that in this surprisingly violent and gory story, there would a misguided love story, but it's true. There is a monologue that a seamstress Aunt Mui gives that could wreck one's heart.

There is a problem with the movie being a little strange in its focus and who it chooses to follow. Yau barely fits into the entire 2nd third of the movie. It mostly chooses to show the monk as he tries to solve a mystery regarding a tenant who disappeared that culminates in a very impressive final battle. But then the movie switches to another random mystery involving a mother and her son that given what happens to them feels like a lot of padding for the run time. There is also a certain plot twist that bring the entire movie together, and there is a big argument to be had whether this is a cheap twist or a device that brings all of the components of the movie to serve a higher thematic purpose, thus changing one's perspective of everything that's happened so far.

RIGOR MORTIS is an inventive movie in terms of character design and the way that it builds an interesting world that would warrant further exploration. Its lack of focus on a given protagonist makes the movie feel a little disjointed, however. Still, a fan of the horror genre should check this movie for a new take on old horror monsters.

RIGOR MORTIS is available on iTunes and VOD today.

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